Like lighting Advent candles, Advent readings (for church services or personal devotions) provoke a pause from the everyday. There’s nothing quite like navigating the special weeks of Advent: preparation, anticipation, joy, and incarnation.
The Revised Common Lectionary offers Bible readings from the Old Testament and New Testament for each Sunday of Advent—three years’ worth. Go through one set per year, then start again! For 2021’s Bible reading for Advent, begin with set three below.
Note: If you’re also using these Bible passages in your personal or family devotions, you can do what Rick Brannan did in Anticipating His Arrival: A Family Guide through Advent and break up each Sunday’s passages into readings throughout the week.
To scroll down to Advent thoughts you can read alongside Scripture passages, click here.
Weekly Scripture Advent readings for church services
Readings set 1 (for 2022, 2025, 2028, etc.)
Psalm 72:1–7, 18–19
Psalm 146:5–10 or Luke 1:46b–55
Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19
Readings set 2 (for 2023, 2026, 2029, etc.)
Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19
1 Corinthians 1:3–9
Psalm 85:1–2, 8–13
2 Peter 3:8–15a
Mark 1: 1–8
Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11
Psalm 126 or Luke 1:46b–55
1 Thessalonians 5:16–24
John 1:6–8, 19–28
2 Samuel 7:1–11, 16
Luke 1:46b–55 or Psalm 89:1–4, 19–26
Readings set 3 (for 2021, 2024, 2027, etc.)
1 Thessalonians 3:9–13
Luke 1:36b–55 or Psalm 80:1–7
Luke 1:39–45 (46–55)
To make reading Advent Scriptures even easier for personal or family devotions, you can use the free Advent Bible reading plan from Logos Bible Software available on desktop app, mobile app, or app.logos.com. Open the day’s reading from anywhere, anytime—no flipping pages or wondering where you left off. If you miss any readings, jump to today’s reading with a click or tap.
Of course, because there’s much overlap between Advent readings for church services and the Advent reading plan, you’ll have extra opportunity to reflect on these passages.
And if you use the Revised Common Lectionary for preaching, you can pull it into your preaching calendar with a couple of clicks inside Logos’ Sermon Manager.
Advent readings for reflection on Scripture
Devotional Advent readings bring insight and application to Scripture passages. Here are a few examples.
“Prepare the Way” by John Piper
This is to be read with Luke 1:16–17 and comes from Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2013, available free.
That you might be prepared . . .
First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior. Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we desperately feel the need for a Savior. Let these short Advent meditations help awaken in you a bittersweet sense of need for the Savior.
Second, engage in sober self-examination. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24) Let every heart prepare him room . . . by cleaning house.
Third, build God-centered anticipation and expectancy and excitement into your home—especially for the children. If you are excited about Christ, they will be too. If you can only make Christmas exciting with material things, how will the children get a thirst for God? Bend the efforts of your imagination to make the wonder of the King’s arrival visible for the children.
Fourth, be much in the Scriptures, and memorize the great passages! “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!” (Jeremiah 23:29) Gather ’round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights.1
“The Christmas Way of Wisdom” by Mark Yarbrough
This is to be read with Psalm 1 and comes from Tidings of Comfort & Joy: 25 Devotions Leading to Christmas.
My wife and I have survived four teenage drivers. I’m certain the mere reference to the words “teenage” and “driving” in the same sentence leads some to start twitching. For the most part, we’ve come out unscathed. Three have successfully made it into their twenties, and our final one is on the cusp of making the all-important rite of passage. But prayers are still accepted! Having taught all four to drive, I made a significant observation: knowing the correct path to their driving destinations is critical. Let me make it practical. Knowing the right directions got them to Chick-fil-A, whereas wrong directions led to chaos and the need for a search and rescue team. Even with technological assistance, knowing directions is paramount. Simply put, the correct way directs one to the desired goal, and the wrong way produces failure and loss.
With stakes much higher than nuggets and waffle fries, the psalmist confirms this truth as a theme in the book of Psalms. In particular, there is a Christmas thought embedded in Psalm 1.
One of the dominant charges that comes from the book of Psalms is for the nation of Israel to pursue God’s path as revealed in and through the wisdom of his word. God longed for them to be a different people and a different nation that followed his ways of wisdom. The psalmist instructs us that the word of God is “a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Ps 119:105). This is no different for us today, which is why the apostle Paul reminds us that Scripture is directive and purposeful (2 Tim 3:16–17). On these verses Warren Wiersbe was fond of saying that Scripture is profitable for doctrine (what is right), for reproof (what is not right), for correction (how to get right), and for training in righteousness (how to stay right).
Well said, brother! God’s word is the way of wisdom, and our Savior, Jesus Christ, is wisdom incarnate.
Like other Old Testament psalms (i.e., Pss 19 and 119), Psalm 1 contrasts those who follow the way of the Lord versus those who do not. It contrasts those whose track pursues God’s way of righteousness versus those whose path leads to destruction.
According to Psalm 1, those who delight in the things of God:
- refuse to support individuals who mock the word (v. 1),
- find pleasure in and meditate on what God has revealed (v. 2), and
- tap into God’s nourishing, fruit-producing revelation (v. 3).
Those who do not trust the Lord are:
- tossed about by the winds of life (v. 4),
- guilty for rejecting God’s truth (v. 5), and
- following a path toward destruction (v. 6).
The comparison is stark. God’s revealed path leads to life. Any other path leads to sorrow.
So what does this have to do with Christmas? Everything!
Friends, God’s grand cosmic GPS system is the Babe in Bethlehem. As the writer of Hebrews said, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Heb 1:1–2). In other words, Jesus, God in flesh, is the path to follow. That’s why Jesus himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He is the only righteous path.
The way of wisdom is a person. When we follow him, we’ll make it to our destination.
So drive on, you followers of the Way (Acts 9:2; 22:4). Trust your coordinates to him. He may lead us in ways that seem unfamiliar. His coordinates may not align with what we think is the best route. We may not understand where he seems to be taking us. But one thing is sure: he knows what he is doing.
Delight in the living Word. Bethlehem’s gift will lead us home.2
Tidings of Comfort and Joy also offers practical Advent application and a thoughtful prayer, not excerpted here.
“Jesus” by Asheritah Ciuciu
This is to be read with Matthew 1:21 and comes from Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional.
The name Jesus is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means “the LORD is salvation.” In Bible times, it was not an uncommon name, just like Jesus Himself didn’t appear out of the ordinary to those who grew up with Him. Yet His given name holds great significance to who He is and what He did on earth.
In the Old Testament, Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan. He saved the people through courageous leadership, charging into battle upon bloody battle, leading hundreds of thousands into the Promised Land. In contrast to the first Joshua, the second Joshua (Jesus) saved through an epic battle that He fought alone, quietly making the way for His people to enter the Promised Land of God’s presence.
Jesus came to save people from their sins. What the first Joshua was powerless to do, the second Joshua was born to accomplish.
During Jesus’ lifetime, the Israelites were waiting for a political leader like Joshua who would free them from the yoke of Roman oppression and allow them to live in the land God had promised them, just as their forefathers had been freed from Egyptian slavery and led into Canaan. They wanted a macho man who would reinstate Israel as an autonomous country and make the Romans run in fear.
But Jesus’ perspective is always bigger than ours. His gaze was set on the universal dilemma of sin. His battle was one of cosmic proportions, to deliver all who believe in Him from the bondage of soul-deadening sin and welcome us into the family of God.
As you enter this season of Advent, what expectations do you have of Jesus? Are you expecting Him to provide finances, heal a loved one, mend a marriage, or fulfill some other request? He very well may … but He may not. Regardless of what happens or how He answers, open yourself to His saving touch, and ask Him to show you what He wants to do in your life. Begin the Advent season with an open heart filled with hope because of Jesus our Savior.
Precious Jesus, thank You for coming to save not just Israel but all those who call on You. I often get wrapped up in my own self-righteousness and feel like my salvation is done and over with, but You desire a continual renewal of my heart; You want to save me from my own self-righteousness and transform me into Your image. “Search me, God, and know my heart … See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23–24).
For further study
Psalm 139; Isaiah 53; Matthew 21:11; Luke 2:11; Romans 11:263
May you be blessed this Advent season as you read God’s Word and reflect on the light of the world (John 8:12).
- 11 Advent Devotionals to Stir Your Heart This Christmas
- Advent Ideas: 3 Counter-Cultural Paths to Christmas
- Not Ready for Christmas? Advent Is for You
- Books on Advent: Celebrate Christ with These 10 Resources
- Anticipating His Arrival: A Family Guide through Advent
- Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2013
- Tidings of Comfort & Joy: 25 Devotions Leading to Christmas
- Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional
- Piper, John. 2013. Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent 2013. Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.
- Yarbrough, Mark M. 2021. Tidings of Comfort and Joy: 25 Devotions Leading to Christmas. Bellingham, WA: Kirkdale Press.
- Ciuciu, Asheritah. 2017. Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.